When one first visits Santa Fe, there is something magical that is hard to describe. Santa Fe truly is the Land of Enchantment. I had the pleasure of visiting as a guest of LaFonda on the Plaza earlier this year and I can’t wait to bring my kids because there is so much for them to experience in this city rich with art that will delight all of their senses.
Sights of Santa Fe
Visually, Santa Fe is just breathtaking. Living in Chicago, a relatively large and somewhat congested city, we don’t get the opportunity to see expansive vistas, mountains or such vivid sky colors. I know we share the same sky but I kept staring at the Santa Fe sky, mesmerized. At night, I could see stars. Real stars…imagine that.
Sounds and Tastes of Santa Fe at the Holidays
It’s calm and quiet. I realize this isn’t unique to Santa Fe but I embraced it because it’s not really calm or quiet in Chicago. You could hear the soft rattling of leaves on trees. It was almost meditative.
Santa Fe, I learned, loves its red and green chiles. One afternoon was spent at the Santa Fe School of Cooking in a demo and in addition to the food, that’s where I first tasted coffee slow roasted with native Piñon nuts. Talk about savoring that coffee! I still have dreams about that coffee. Another morning we spent at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. I highly recommend visiting the market with or without kids. It’s so well-organized and supported that I wish I had a kitchen where I could make a dish that evening using local fresh ingredients that filled the tables. Just walking in and inhaling the earthiness made the whole experience feel divine.
Since art is such a big part of Santa Fe’s culture, I especially loved the meals and ambiance at La Fonda on the Plaza on-site restaurant, La Plazuela. Chef Lane Warner creates contemporary interpretations of American standards while playing homage to its local heritage by updating Northern New Mexico classics with locally sourced organic meats and produce. Guests can enjoy their meal with beautiful whimsical folk art like its legendary hand-painted windows as their backdrop.
During the holidays, locals enjoy baking Biscochitos, a popular New Mexican Christmas cookie (recipe below). To help celebrate the season, Kelly Rael, bartender at La Fonda on the Plaza, created the Biscochito Martini (recipe also below).
Scents and Touches of Santa Fe at the Holidays
As soon as I arrived, I could distinctly smell something almost sweet and earthy in the air. I dismissed it, thinking the smell would soon fade yet every morning I would wake up and either go for a morning run or grab coffee at a nearby local coffee shop and that earthy smell was still there, lingering every so sweetly. One day I happened to mention the smell to a local and she said it’s the native Piñon trees and the nuts that I was inhaling like a crazy puppy in heat. I wish I could bottle that smell. It does not smell anything like that in Chicago and everytime I would open the bag of coffee beans I brought home with me, I would pause, take a deep breath to inhale the decadent scent , grind my beans and savor each and every sip of that coffee. I think I cried a little inside when I drank my last cup from that bag and cursed myself for not buying more. Which reminds me I should order some right now so I can re-live that feeling.
One of the main reasons I want to bring my kids is so they can check out the Museum of International Folk Art which is packed with so many beautiful pieces of folk art from around the world. The interactive activities throughout the museum will let the kids really immerse themselves into the experience. The museum is part of Museum Hill which includes the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. For a fantastic view of Santa Fe, head to the Museum Hill Café and enjoy a meal. The Café is also located on the Museum Hill.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe at the Holidays
As a guest of La Fonda on the Plaza, I was taken by the amount of local art throughout the hotel. Historical records suggest that La Fonda on the Plaza sits on the oldest hotel corner in America. When Santa Fe was founded by the Spaniards in 1607, records show an inn — or fonda — was among the first businesses established at the same location where La Fonda sits today. Guests young and old will feel like they’re staying in a living museum as each room features original art by local artists from the handpainted headboards to the tile artwork in the bathroom.
Personally, I was really taken by everything Santa Fe had to offer. Although I only spent three days, one can easily spend more time to explore all the sights, sounds and tastes of the area. I can’t wait to return and take my kids.
La Fonda on the Plaza
The biscochito is the state cookie of New Mexico, an anise-flavored shortbread traditionally enjoyed around Christmastime.
6 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. lard
1 1/2 c. white sugar
2 tsp. anise seed
1/4 c. brandy
1/4 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the lard and 1 1/2 c. sugar until smooth. Mix in anise seed and beat until fluffy. Stir in eggs one at a time. Add the sifted ingredients and brandy, and stir until well blended.
On a floured surface, roll dough out to 1/2″ or 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Place cookies onto baking sheets. Mix together 1/4 c. sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over tops of cookies
Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.
Biscochito Martini (for the adults)
Kelly Rael, Bartender at La Fonda on the Plaza
An “adult” take on the traditional biscochito (the state cookie of New Mexico),
La Fonda’s signature Christmas cocktail is perfect for holiday parties.
1 ¼ oz. Baileys
1 oz. Meukow Vanilla Cognac
Drizzle of Sambuca
Rim glass with cinnamon and sugar
Shake and serve!